Renowned American folk artist “Grandma” Moses is often cited as an example of someone who successfully began a career in the arts at an advanced age. Moses started painting in her late 70s and became so famous that, at age 88, Mademoiselle named her “Young Woman of the Year.”

Enter Pearl Malkin, or Grandma Pearl, who decided to give the arts a try as an alternative, she says, to watching boring TV all day long. At 89, she has launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising enough capital to start her own company. Her product is a line of hand-decorated walking sticks that she calls “Happy Canes.” The idea came to her when she grew tired of her plain black cane and decided to embellish it; soon, she had a decorated cane to match every outfit.

Her idea and enthusiasm have inspired others. She is now more than halfway to her funding goal of $3,500, with 71 backers and $1,856 raised. She has until March 23 to raise the necessary funds but, despite the looming deadline, she says she’s not worried. Even if she doesn’t meet her startup capital goal, the journey itself has still been exciting.

“All my life,” Malkin says, “my mother told me that I couldn’t do anything right. But I’m doing something right with this.”

She heard about Kickstarter and Etsy, a place where she can sell her handcrafted goods, from close family friend and fellow entrepreneur Adam London, who also set her up on the sites.

Malkin’s son Marc says that although his mom isn’t doing this for the money, the extra income wouldn’t hurt.  Malkin currently lives alone in a San Rafael, California retirement community on a restricted budget.

“I want to make people happy, spread a little cheer around and maybe buy some nice shoes again,” says the spunky octogenarian.

As an added incentive to Kickstart pledgers, for each pledge of $22 Malkin has promised to send a signed copy of A Jewish Mother’s Guide to Professional Worry, a biography of Malkin written by another son, Steve. She’ll send a book and a Happy Cane for pledges of $90 and will be giving a cane-decorating lesson and a multi-course homemade meal to one investor who gave $500.

Source: Kavilanz, Parija. “89-year-old grandma’s startup on Kickstarter” CNNMoney. February 20, 2013.

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